Butler alumna works with campus organizations to elevate the mental health conversation

NAMI works to grow mental health resources on campus. Photo courtesy of Opportunity Starts at Home

LILY O’CONNOR | STAFF REPORTER | lkoconnor@butler.edu 

In efforts to provide students with more mental health resources, the Student Government Association (SGA) and Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS) are partnering with the National Alliance of Mental Illnesses (NAMI) Greater Indianapolis. The first event of their collaboration is a presentation through the NAMI program Ending the Silence, which will be held on campus on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 5 p.m. in the Pharmacy and Health Sciences Building. 

NAMI is an organization focused on providing mental health resources to people of all ages. The Ending the Silence program focuses on ending the stigma of mental illness. It was originally for high schoolers, but CCS, SGA and NAMI are focused on adapting it to a college level.

Miranda Dehaai, a 2023 Butler alumna and a program manager at NAMI, reached out to Dr. Casiana Warfield, assistant director of CCS, over the summer to start a collaboration between Butler and NAMI to elevate mental health resources. They have many ideas for events that NAMI can help host on campus, but they were both most interested in Ending the Silence as the first collaboration. 

“Miranda reached out to a lot of departments on campus to try to collaborate because she is a former Butler student, and she wants NAMI to start working with college students more,” Warfield said. “She told me about the Ending the Silence program that they’ve done in high schools and junior highs, and I said, ‘Wow, I think that that would be a good first event for us to collaborate on.’” 

Dehaai also reached out to Julia Fryrear, a senior sociology-criminology major and director of SGA’s Mental Health and Well-Being Board, to let her know what was being planned. Fryrear was interested, so Dehaai and Warfield involved SGA in the collaboration, and Fryrear took on more of a leadership role in planning the event’s presentation. 

“On the SGA side, we really want to make sure that students feel supported, and mental health is something that we really hope to bring as a focus to the university,” Fryrear said. “ … I’m really excited for this presentation because it’s just a small step to making mental health awareness more of an important topic on campus.” 

According to Dehaai, the Mental Health and Well-Being Board was started while she was at Butler, and she saw that the mental health resources on campus were all separated from each other. Now, as an alumna, she would like to help unite all of the different mental health resources on campus to provide students with as much help as they need. 

“I originally reached out to Butler partially because I was reaching out to a lot of [universities] to make sure I’m helping them as much as possible, but I’m extra passionate about Butler, as someone who graduated in May,” Dehaai said. “I want to really help as much as I can. As someone who’s in the work field now, I am trying to use my profession to help students.” 

The event will include a presentation about warning signs of mental illness and coping strategies from Dehaai. She will discuss ending the stigma and what that means for individual students. Dehaai will also share her personal experience with mental illness throughout her college experience. 

“I have been really passionate about education in particular because when I was in school, I would talk to adults, teachers even, and they did not have the training that I wish they had,” Dehaai said. “Ending the stigma and spreading the conversation really helps us help each other. It helps mental health be seen as something that can be part of a conversation.” 

The presentation will also feature introductions from Warfield and Fryrear. They will discuss how to use both SGA and CCS as resources and what exactly each organization can do for students. The CCS therapy dogs, Bella and Lilo, will also be in attendance. 

“I want to make sure [students] understand why I’m in my role and why my role is important because sometimes [students] do not know why we have a director of mental health and well-being,” Fryrear said.

Additionally, NAMI and Dehaai chose to include NAMI volunteer Adrianna Smith as a guest speaker at this event. Smith will discuss struggling with mental health in silence. According to her, she comes from a home where mental illness was not a big topic due to the fact that she is a person of color and her family is religious. 

“I was trying to get stories that had a lot to do with college so that we can connect and help students feel less isolated, less alone, and give different perspectives because going through college, especially for freshmen, can feel a little bit daunting mental health-wise,” Dehaai said. 

NAMI, CCS and SGA have high hopes of collaborating on more events for Butler students in the future. Warfield, Dehaai and Fryrear have been discussing a potential mental health fair and an eating disorder awareness presentation. Dehaai is passionate about making sure that mental health is talked about all year long and not just during particularly stressful times, like finals week. 

“We’ve been talking about putting together a mental health fair in the spring,” Dehaai said. “We also wanted to put together some information for post-graduation because myself and a lot of my peers who have graduated in May have had a period of time where we do not know how to find resources as an adult, so we’re trying to put together some resources for some seniors as well.” 

According to Warfield, NAMI is helping Butler unify all of their resources and giving them tools to elevate the mental health conversation on campus. The Ending the Silence presentation is just the beginning. 

“I’m really hoping a student group here might take the Ending the Silence format and do something with current Butler students,” Warfield said. “We have big dreams.” 


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